From HNF-Cure.org: The first major advance comes with the passing of the “FY 2005 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations” bill by the United States House of Representatives. This bill includes a call by Congress to have the National Institute of Health (NIH) investigate mechanisms of increasing federal research on CMT and CMT-related disorders. The NIH is to report back to Congress by March, 2005, paving the way for increased research in the near future. An associated report the notes that [Congress is] “concerned about the prevalence of this disease and its effect on people across the age spectrum and recognizes the value of CMT research for advancing understanding into other neuromuscular disorders. The Committee encourages NIH to identify new research opportunities on CMT that could lead to a relevant program announcement or request for applications.” The legislation must be also be reviewed by the U.S. Senate, but once enacted will direct funds to the NIH to enable the review to be undertaken.
A second major advance came with the publication of the September 9th issue of the prestigious science journal Nature. The front cover of the issue features a lead headline about new research into Schwann cell function. Schwann cells are the cells that make myelin, the coating that insulates electrical signals carried by the peripheral nerves. The article “Restricted growth of Schwann cells lacking Cajal bands slows conduction in myelinated nerves”, by Court et al. reports on new research from the University of Edinburgh Centre for Neuroscience Research. Court et al.’s study identified that longitudinal bands in the ‘meshwork’ beneath the plasma membrane of myelinating Schwann cells, which they term Cajal bands, are absent in mutant Schwann cells. Their results show this leads to slowed nerve conduction times, a clinical feature prevalent in some variants of CMT, including the most common form: CMT-1A. The cover also featured a full colour picture of Cajal bands. This exciting work may lead to development of gene therapy to treat demyelinating forms of CMT and, with its publication in Nature, dramatically raises the profile of CMT-related research both within the medical and scientific community, and the public at large.